Cheetahs Take the Spoils

The Toyota Cheetahs enjoyed momentum having played a number of games recently to take a 40-34 victory in the inaugural Toyota Challenge match against the Cell C Sharks in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon.

It was a highly entertaining game with five tries to four for the Cell C Sharks, but rustiness having not played since their fourth Vodacom United Rugby Championship game perhaps played a role on the day.

The visitors enjoyed the early advantage before the home side took control until later in the second half, having done enough to take the victory despite a concerted effort from the Durbanites.

A third minute try for the Cell C Sharks was good reward for the pressure exerted on the home team in the early stages, with scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar kicking ahead, Anthony Volmink gathering and offloading back to Pienaar to score the opener after some determined play. Although the conversion from out wide was narrowly off-target, he did succeed with a penalty moments later when Free State gave away a three pointer trying to run the ball out of their half.

Chamberlain’s educated boot came to the fore in creating the second try with almost 20 minutes on the clock, some strong scumming and the penalties earned at the set-piece put the Cell C Sharks into good field position, before the flyhalf grubbered the ball through the defence to set up outside centre Marnus Potgieter to run on and elude the last line en-route to the tryline for a 13-nil lead.

Following a water break at the end of the first quarter, Free State managed to put pressure on the visiting Cell C Sharks before earning a penalty and sending the ball through the posts to get their first points on the board.

A couple of minutes later they managed an enterprising attack involving most of the team as they scored in the corner to cut the lead to three points with the successful conversion.

With five minutes of the entertaining half remaining, Free State won a second kickable penalty and like the earlier one, had no trouble making the decision to go for posts, the successful conversion levelling the scores.

The home side had a new-found confidence and made it count with a very good attacking effort to take the ball wide and then score in the corner again with half-time approaching. Another conversion from wide gave Free State a 20-13 lead and that was how the first half ended.

The Cheetahs started the second half as they left off the first, an explosive attack from their own half resulted in their third try, the conversion pushing the home side 14 points clear.

But Free State had a habit of conceding penalties at regular intervals and after losing a man to the sin bin following a team warning, a powerful Cell C Sharks scrum set the team up nicely and replacement prop Dian Bleuler, on debut and with his first touch of the ball, managed to drive over for an important try with Chamberlain adding the extras.

With the swing of advantage to the Durban side and a one man advantage, the seventh try of the match was unquestionably the most exciting, Werner Kok making the initial break and then the ball moved down and across the field with Volmink getting his team’s fourth with the successful conversion levelling the scores with the final quarter left to play.

Free State went back into the lead with a three-pointer five minutes later and should never have scored again defending their tryline, but a loose ball was snapped up and the end to end action resulted in a converted try for the home side with ten minutes of the game remaining.

The home side scored their last points with a scrum penalty – their first in a game where they had been dominated at the set-piece persistently – that pushed them into a 40-27 lead with a couple of minutes remaining, but they continued to give away penalties in open play and when they were forced to defend their line, conceded the final try of the game, Boeta Chamberlain under pressure but having the composure to grubber the ball into open play with Jeremy Ward running onto the perfectly-place kick to score the try and Chamberlain’s conversion that wrapped up the game.